Chapter 9: Slash and Burn

The rain pours down, cold and relentless, but I pay no notice as I walk the plains of Whiterun.  My shock and sorrow give way to anger, a righteous fury that burns hot and feeds on pain.  Inwardly I rail at the treachery, the injustice, the sheer depth of calculated malice from a trusted partner who arranged my death.

I hear swift sodden footsteps in the wet grass behind me and I whirl around, weapon drawn, ready to attack any unfortunate intruder who might consider me an easy target. Through the rain, a blurry figure resolves into Jenassa. She’s running to catch up with me, still holding the letter that revealed the depth of my partner’s betrayal.

“Go away!” I scream at her, and in that moment I can no longer hold back the tears.  They run hot down my face, mingling with the cool rain.  Jenassa stops in front of me with an expression of both patience and exasperation.  Deliberately, she crumples the letter into a ball and tosses it into the grass.

“So, what do you want to do?”  Her calm and even voice dispels my emotional tempest.   I gape at her, uncomprehending.  She sighs, rolling her eyes at the dark clouds above us.

“This Roddy person, from what I understand, has essentially ended your life,” she says coolly.  “You don’t understand what a gift he’s given you.  You have a completely clean slate.  You can start over, do whatever you want, be whomever you wish.  You are no longer bound to anyone or anything.  You’re free.”

I’m outraged at her presumption.  “He’s taken everything from me!”  I protest.  “He played me like a cheap lute and destroyed everything I cared about!   Don’t you understand?  I have nothing left — I don’t even have a home anymore!”

“Nonsense,” Jenassa says crisply.  “Right now you have all the choices in the world.  This is the one time in your life where every option is open to you.  Most of us act because we must.  You now have the opportunity to take any path you desire.  Don’t squander it.”

I open my mouth to argue, but she’s suddenly focused on something behind me.  “Get down!” she hisses as she drops to a crouch and nocks an arrow to her bow in one smooth motion.  Instinctively I follow suit, not quite as smoothly.  I fumble my bow, spill some arrows on the ground, and wipe the water from my eyes.  Then I see what has her attention.

Now that looks familiar.
Bet that wasn’t caused by lightning.

“It’s coming this way,”  Jenassa murmurs.  I have to strain to hear her over the sound of the rain and wind.  “I shall approach and you follow my lead.  We must attack at precisely the same moment — but be sure to keep your distance.”

Guess a rainstorm doesn't help after all.
So fire elementals are waterproof?  How does that work?!

We hide behind a boulder, tense, as the elemental advances on our position.  Then at the Dunmer’s signal we both stand tall and start shooting.  The creature retaliates and the grass around us starts to combust, but the flames are quickly dampened by the rain.  The atronach goes down in a burst of incandescence.

Talk about an occupational hazard.
Talk about an occupational hazard.

Neither of us are surprised to see the corpse of a conjurer close to the lifeless atronach, but a short distance away there are two more bodies, both with scorch marks.  This battle was going on for awhile before we showed up.  Jenassa scans the horizon as I loot the remains — when suddenly she drops to the ground.  I hear an arrow whistle overhead at the same instant.

“Too close,” she mutters.  “There’s a bandit camp ahead.  Be wary — I think they’ve spotted us.”

We slowly circle around.  The camp is fortified and it seems to be built from an abandoned mine.  We can only see two or three bandits, but there’s bound to be more inside.

Jenassa and I move in closer, but the archer hears our movement.  She points in our direction and sends another bandit to investigate.

As soon as he leaves the perimeter, I send in Mr. Wuffles.  We shoot the bandit as he tries to defend himself and then turn our attention to the camp.  Mr. Wuffles rushes inside as Jenassa wields her blades in a deadly whirlwind of motion, cutting down another bandit before he can even raise his shield.  I’m a tad clumsy as I try to pick off the enemy archer.  One of my arrows grazes Jenassa instead — but fortunately it doesn’t even slow her down.

So much for the stealthy approach.
So much for the stealthy approach.

Behind the walls, there’s some ramshackle buildings and platforms, none of which offer much shelter.  We find a couple of chests and loot them both.  I’m nearly soaked through by now and my cloak is no longer keeping out the cold, which is turning into a problem as my hands are going numb and losing dexterity.  I need to find a source of warmth, or… wait.  That’ll do!

Maven's mead tastes even sweeter when it's stolen.
Maven’s mead tastes even sweeter when it’s stolen.

I bend my head to the spigot of the keg and take a huge swallow.  Delicious warmth spreads through me and I smack my lips in appreciation.  Jenassa smirks and points toward the entrance to the old mine shaft.  We’re going in there?  Sounds good, lead on!

…Oh.  I’m going in there.  Right.  Just back me up, will ya?

You're on point, Mr. Wuffles!
You’re on point, Mr. Wuffles!

Inside the mine, we take out another bandit.  I narrowly avoid a pressure plate on the floor and almost trip over a mining cart instead.  Checking out the cart, I expect to see rocks and ore — but that’s definitely not what’s in there.

They're mining ivory? Well, I guess if they can mine ebony...
They’re mining ivory? Well, I guess if they can mine ebony…

I clean out the cart and loot the bandit corpse.  From a nearby table, I collect a few potions and a key.  Up ahead is a locked metal cage door built into the rock.  I unlock the door, and we step into the narrow passage beyond.

Echoing voices bounce off the rock walls.   There’s a wide chamber at the end of the passage, but it’s hard to tell how many other bandits are back there.   Hanging from the ceiling are several firepots.  In the flickering light we can see bones strung with long ropes hanging from the rafters.  I get where they’re going with the whole “menacing bad guys” theme, but that’s just overkill.  They should fire their interior decorator.

We try to approach quietly, but the dangling bones obstruct our path. They rattle and clang as we pass.  Whoops.

Alerted, the bandits rush toward us.  Jenassa pulls out her weapons and goes for the biggest and ugliest, an orc in heavy armour wielding a battleaxe.  Yikes.  Hoping to create a distraction, I shoot down one of the hanging firepots and the floor of the large chamber explodes in flames.

That'll singe off some eyebrows.
That’ll singe off some eyebrows.

One of the bandits gets blown clear off his feet and makes the worst possible landing.  The others take a lot of damage from the explosion and we dispatch them in short order.  There are pools of spilled oil on the floor, which explains the impressive pyrotechnics.  But really, hanging firepots over an oily floor?  And no one thought this was a bad idea?  I guess bandits aren’t the brainiest bunch.

Told you it was the worst possible landing.
Told you it was the worst possible landing.

There’s a bloodstained mammoth corpse in the middle of the room.  The bandits have obviously been carving away at it for some time.  Jenassa speculates that they might have carved it into pieces and carried it here in chunks, so they could skin it out of the rain.  Eurgh.

I start to investigate the entire room, poking in all the nooks and crannies.  Jenassa informs me that bandits tend to stash their loot in many places, often from each other, as they aren’t the most trusting lot.  Sure enough, we uncover a coin purse under the stairs, several more ivory tusks on a shelf, another coin purse up on a ledge, and a narrow passageway behind the forge that leads to a locked chest.

I do like passages that lead somewhere interesting.
I like passages that lead somewhere interesting.

I find a few slim metal picks on a table while my elven ally explains the rudiments of lockpicking.  After a couple of attempts I succeed in opening the chest, which holds a scattering of gold coins and some bits of armour.  Hardly worth hiding away and locking up, you’d think — but loot is loot.

After we’re satisfied that we’ve explored the room thoroughly, we turn our attention to the large ornate treasure chest, prominently displayed on a platform.  As I open it, it’s clear that we’ve hit the jackpot.

So apparently crime does pay. (Until you get eaten by trolls or killed by explosions.)
So apparently crime does pay. (Until you get eaten by trolls or killed by explosions.)

Dazzled by all the shinies, I nearly miss the beat-up old sword lying at the bottom of the chest.  It’s in rough shape, but as I hold it up to the light I can just make out the word “Amren” engraved in the rusty hilt.   Huh, that sounds familiar.  I’m sure I’ve heard that name around Whiterun.  Could I have just found that Redguard’s family sword?  Rather than cramming it into my overloaded backpack, I carefully attach it to my belt.

We discover another passage toward the back, leading to a bloody pit trap with sharpened stakes.  Ew.  Must be how they caught that mammoth.  There are the remains of more skewered victims in the pit — a deer and an elf.  I carefully loot what I can and head back down to the main chamber.

I preferred it when I thought they were mining ivory.
I preferred it when I thought they were mining ivory.

Jenassa suggests going over the room again to see if there’s more hidden loot, but the smell of blood, oil, and charred flesh is really starting to turn my stomach.  We head up to the surface and make our way back to Whiterun.

The skies are still overcast but the rain has stopped, and the air is fresh and clean.  I inhale deeply, replacing the stench of blood with the sweet rain-scented breeze.

Jenassa gives me a sidelong glance and asks me how I’m doing.  I understand that she’s asking about the letter and the end of my life back in High Rock, and for a moment it hits me all over again — the pain, the loss, the rage.

But then, like the weather, it clears.  I’m still angry and hurt, but I’ve started a decent life here.  I have friends and allies, a place to live, a vocation to pursue, and the means to support myself.  And as I glance down at Amren’s sword hanging from my belt, I realize there’s even more.  I can help others and really make a difference in their lives.

I give Jenassa a wry smile.  “I can’t say I’m fine, but I will be.

“However,” I add. “If I ever have the opportunity to exact a little revenge, you can bet I will.”

She laughs.  “We’re one of the same kind, you and I.  I’m glad to have met you.”

It's a beautiful evening.
It’s a beautiful evening in Skyrim.

 

Travel Map 5.
Travel Map 5.

One thought on “Chapter 9: Slash and Burn

  1. I adore how you’re developing this blog into more of a real story. At first, it was just a (hilarious) account of Skyrim from a character’s perspective, but with this and the last chapter, it’s clear that the direction is changing into a serious roleplaying experience – I can’t wait to read even more (and for Morien to begin the Dovahkiin questline).

    Liked by 1 person

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